It was a great year for movie songs. Will Smith’s Men in Black theme was a chart-topping hit, Boyz II Men’s “A Song for Mama” from Soul Food got a Grammy nod, two versions of Con Air‘s “How Do I Live” hit the top 25, and there were two — not just one — animated musicals (Hercules and Anastasia) with family-friendly soundtracks. Why, then, is the best song Oscar race so dull?
One reason: Titanic. With the watery epic dominating industry headlines, Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” is likely to ride the wave to a statuette. It doesn’t hurt that the two albums containing the song — the soundtrack and Dion’s Let’s Talk About Love — are currently Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, on the pop chart. And winning a Golden Globe last month further cemented its position as the tune to beat — 16 of the last 18 Globe winners for Best Original Song have gone on to take the Oscar. Concedes Disney’s animation president Peter Schneider, “Titanic is the odds-on favorite.”
Also, oddly enough, actual Oscar contenders are few. “Men in Black” is ineligible because it samples Patrice Rushen’s “Forget Me Nots.” “A Song for Mama” wasn’t nominated for a Globe and will likely be overlooked by the mostly white Academy voters. And “How Do I Live” may suffer from its checkered history: Disney rejected LeAnn Rimes’ original version, claiming it lacked emotional weight, and recruited Trisha Yearwood to redo it. But Rimes’ take hit No. 2, while Yearwood’s petered out at No. 23, leading some to wonder if Disney picked the wrong crooner. “Well, it’s still the same song,” shrugs Kathy Nelson, Disney’s motion picture music president. “It’s best song, not best recording.”
That leaves Sheryl Crow’s “Tomorrow Never Dies,” Michael Bolton’s “Go the Distance” from Hercules and Anastasia‘s “Journey to the Past” or “Once Upon a December” as the other hopefuls. But not one has the momentum of an ocean liner. So is there any chance that, say, “How Do I Live” could pull off a Titanic upset? Suggests Nelson, “Maybe Celine should sing it.”